All my life I have wanted to visit the Van Gogh and the Rijk Museums in Amsterdam, but in the end I found the experience strangely underwhelming. Of course Van Gogh’s Irises and his Almond Blossom are divine, and nothing can lessen the impact of Vermeer’s Milkmaid and Rembrandt’s sensational The Nightwatch, but there are a lot of other things for an art enthusiast to contend with, finding them for one! The crowds are huge, throngs of people flood everywhere, the multiple gift shops and cafes are almost as big as the museums, and the floor plans (in the Rijk Museum in particular) require more than a good sense of direction. I suppose I’m not used to anything on that kind of scale, and it takes a bit of acclimatising: it’s a type of culture shock maybe.
Amsterdam itself surprised me with how huge and grimy it is, though my introduction to it was the Central Station and a bewildering hour of dragging my luggage round and round in circles to find my hotel. One can’t blame Amsterdam for that…On my second day I discovered the beautiful, small-scale Jordaan district with its watery light, little bridges and cafes, and always the beautiful windows of tall, tall houses giving you glimpses of other people’s lives.
She has another one which I found in the Amsterdam Public Library. Seeing those was alone worth me coming to Amsterdam.
Anyway, after three days in Amsterdam, in a slightly dubious hotel with unusual fellow guests, a basement shoebox for a bedroom and a loo up two flights of steep stairs (the STAIRS in Holland, and such a flat country!) I find myself at the lovely and luxurious home of my dear friend Cal in Wandsworth town, London.
There is something so familiar and comforting about London, and so polite. Despite the crowds and the crush and the incredible amount of people that can fit onto a bus, it’s all very civilised…and what’s more there is a lovely dog who lives at Alma Road as well. Let me introduce you to my friend Stanley…